What Is Gotu Kola?

Asian herb may improve circulation, mood, and wound healing

Gotu kola is a perennial plant of the parsley family. It has a scientific name of Centella asiatica (C. asiatica). Gotu Kola is native to southern Asia. But you may also find it in other parts of the world, such as Mexico, South America, and South Africa.

Gotu kola has certain active constituents (parts) called saponins or triterpenoids, which may include asiaticoside, madecassoside, and madasiatic acid. These plant substances are likely responsible for how gotu kola works.

This article discusses what you should know about gotu kola—its potential uses, side effects, and interactions.

Centella asiatica morning dew
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Dietary supplements are not regulated like drugs in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF.

However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn't mean they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and check in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredients (s): Gotu kola, containing active constituents (parts) called saponins or triterpenoids, which may include asiaticoside, madecassoside, and madasiatic acid
  • Alternative name(s): Gotu kola, Centella asiatica, Centella, Brahmi, Hydrocotyle, Indian pennywort, Luei gong gen, Marsh pennywort
  • Legal status: Legal in most states (United States)
  • Suggested dose: May vary based on part of the plant, dosage form, and medical condition
  • Safety considerations: Side effects are rare with gotu kola, but they are possible. While topical gotu kola on the skin might be safe in pregnancy, there's limited information on the oral (by mouth) form of this plant during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. For these reasons, gotu kola isn't typically recommended in pregnancy, breastfeeding, or children. Gotu kola may also interact with some prescription medications.

Uses of Gotu Kola

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Like many natural products, people may use gotu kola for various reasons. But there are several studies assessing gotu kola for the following potential uses.

Brain-related Effects

In a small clinical study, results suggest that older adults—with a mean age of roughly 65 years old—may benefit from gotu kola. In fact, older adults experienced better moods. What's more, the study participants showed improved cognitive function. Cognitive function may include the following abilities:

  • Attention
  • Decision-making
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Problem-solving
  • Reasoning
  • Thinking

But in a 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis (review and analysis of a collection of studies), gotu kola didn't seem to improve cognitive function. But it might improve mood by increasing alertness and relieving anger.

In general, further well-designed clinical trials with appropriate gotu kola doses are warranted.

Blood Circulation

Historically, gotu kola had many uses. Today, it might be used as a phlebotonic. In other words, people might use it for chronic venous insufficiency (CVI).

CVI is a medical condition that tends to happen in your legs. In this condition, your blood vessels are having trouble circulating (moving) blood back toward the heart. So, you may have some swelling as the blood pools in your legs. People with CVI may also experience ulcers.

In reference to a 2020 systematic review, phlebotonics—like gotu kola—may slightly relieve swelling when compared to placebo (a substance with no medication in it). But gotu kola didn't seem to heal any ulcers. Since these studies were short-term, well-designed clinical trials are still necessary with longer-term data in a larger group of people.

Wound Healing

In a small 2017 clinical trial, gotu kola was compared to silver sulfadiazine (SSD) in study participants with burn wounds. In this study, gotu kola was in an ointment dosage form called Centiderm.

Results from this clinical trial suggest that Centiderm may benefit people with burn wounds. But in this study, the burn wounds had to be less than 10 percent of the total body surface area (TBSA) and be on the limbs (arms or legs). What's more, the burn wounds had to be only 48 hours old or less.

This 2017 study looked promising. But in a small 2020 study, herbal creams—like gotu kola—didn't seem to prevent or delay radiodermatitis. In the 2020 clinical trial, the study participants were receiving radiation as part of their breast cancer treatment. And radiodermatitis is a skin reaction to or side effect of radiation.

Based on these studies, the results are mixed. But larger and well-designed studies are warranted.

What Are the Side Effects of Gotu Kola?

Like many medications and natural products, side effects are possible with gotu kola.

Common Side Effects

In general, side effects with gotu kola are rare. But the following side effects are possible at higher doses.

You may also notice some skin-related side effects with topical forms of gotu kola.

Severe Side Effects

Severe allergic reaction is a serious side effect that's possible with any medication. If you're having a severe allergic reaction to gotu kola, symptoms may include breathing difficulties, itchiness, and rash.

Another potentially serious side effect may include liver problems. If you're having liver problems, symptoms may include dark-colored urine and yellowing of the eyes.

Precautions

Your healthcare provider may advise against using gotu kola if any of the following applies to you:

  • Severe allergic reaction: If you have a severe allergic reaction to gotu kola and any of its components (ingredients), you shouldn't take this medication.
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding: The topical version of gotu kola might be safe while pregnant. But there's limited information on gotu kola during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Reach out to your healthcare provider to discuss the benefits and risks of gotu kola while you're pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Children: Gotu kola isn't recommended for children.
  • Older adults over 65 years of age: Older adults have participated in gotu kola-related clinical trials—like for cognitive function and mood. But well-designed studies are still necessary to assess the effectiveness and safety of gotu kola. What's more, older adults are generally more sensitive to side effects from medications. For this reason, take gotu kola with caution. And consider starting at lower doses.
  • Diabetes: Gotu kola may lower your blood glucose (sugar) levels. For this reason, your healthcare provider may caution you about taking gotu kola with your diabetes medications, such as insulin.
  • High cholesterol: Gotu kola may raise cholesterol levels. For this reason, your healthcare provider may recommend against gotu kola if you have a high cholesterol condition.
  • Liver problems: Liver problems might be possible with gotu kola. For this reason, your healthcare provider may recommend against gotu kola if you have a liver condition.

Dosage: How Much Gotu Kola Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs.

While there are studies with gotu kola in humans, larger and well-designed studies are still necessary. What's more, gotu kola has various dosage forms, which might be used for different medical conditions.

For these reasons, there are no guidelines on the appropriate dosage of gotu kola to take for any condition. If you choose to take gotu kola, follow your healthcare provider's recommendations or label instructions.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Gotu Kola?

There are limited reports of gotu kola overdoses in humans. And while side effects are rare, you may experience side effects with long-term use and high doses of gotu kola. So, overdoses with gotu kola might be similar to its common or severe side effects—but exaggerated or excessive.

If you think that you're experiencing an overdose or life-threatening symptoms, get medical help right away.

Interactions

Use caution when taking gotu kola with the following medications:

  • Cholesterol medications: Gotu kola may raise your cholesterol levels. So, it might work against your cholesterol medications, such as Lipitor (atorvastatin).
  • Diabetes medications: Gotu kola might lower your blood glucose (sugar) levels. For this reason, gotu kola may have additive effects with your diabetes medications, such as insulin. Symptoms of low blood sugar may include sweating, tremors, and excessive tiredness.
  • Diuretics (water pills): Gotu kola may help you get rid of excess water through your urine. But combining gotu kola with water pills—like Lasix (furosemide)—may result in too much water loss. This may also lead to abnormal levels of different electrolytes (salts) in your body.
  • Medications with potential effects on the liver: Liver problems might be possible with gotu kola. And there's a higher likelihood of this if you combine gotu kola and other medications with this similar side effect. For example, you may want to typically avoid high doses of Tylenol (acetaminophen) and gotu kola.
  • Sleep-inducing medications: Gotu kola may have slowing effects on the brain. Medications with similar effects may include medications that relieve anxiety symptoms and sleeping problems. But combining gotu kola with these medications may increase the likelihood of side effects. Examples of these medications may include Valium (diazepam) and Ambien (zolpidem).

How to Store Gotu Kola

Since storage instructions may vary for different natural products, carefully read the directions and packaging label on the container. But in general, keep your medications tightly closed and out of the reach of children and pets, ideally locked in a cabinet or closet. Try to store your medications in a cool and dry place.

Discard after one year or as indicated on the packaging. Avoid putting unused and expired drugs down the drain or in the toilet. Visit the FDA's website to know where and how to discard all unused and expired drugs. You can also find disposal boxes in your area.

Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider if you have any questions about the best ways to dispose of your medications or supplements.

Similar Supplements

Some of gotu kola's potential uses may include brain-related effects (e.g., mood and memory), wound healing (e.g., burns), and chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). And other potential similar supplements may include the following:

Grape seed extract: People may use grape seed extract for several different reasons, including CVI. CVI is a medical condition that tends to happen in your legs. In this condition, your blood vessels are having trouble circulating (moving) blood back toward the heart. So, you may have some swelling as the blood pools in your legs. People with CVI may also experience ulcers.

In reference to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), grape seed extract may help with CVI symptoms. But further well-designed studies are necessary.

As for safety, moderate amounts of grape seed extract are generally well-tolerated. And it appears safe for up to 11 months of use. But like gotu kola, there is little information about the effects and safety of grape seed extract while pregnant or breastfeeding.

St. John's wort: People may use St. John's wort for various reasons, which may include brain-related effects (e.g., mood and memory) and wound healing.

According to the NCCIH, people with mild to moderate depression may benefit from St. John's wort. But further research is needed to assess if St. John's wort is effective for severe depression. Additional study is also necessary to evaluate if St. John's wort is effective for longer than 12 weeks. As for social anxiety disorder (SAD), current evidence doesn't support St. John's wort for this mental health condition.

And in reference to the NCCIH, there also isn't enough evidence to support St. John's wort to help with wound healing or improve memory.

As for safety, St. John's wort seems to be safe for up to 12 weeks. But it has the potential to interact with numerous medications. It also has various side effects, and some of these side effects are similar to those of gotu kola. For example, St. John's wort may cause dizziness, headaches, and digestive system-related effects (e.g., nausea, stomach upset, etc.). But St. John's wort is likely unsafe while pregnant or breastfeeding.

In general, don't take these supplements together or with gotu kola until you talk with your healthcare provider first. They can help prevent possible interactions and side effects. They can also make sure that you’re giving these supplements a good trial at appropriate doses.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the most common dosage of gotu kola?

    Gotu kola is available in several different dosage forms—with liquid potentially being the most common.

  • Is gotu kola available from manufacturers in the United States?

    Yes. There are gotu kola products that are made by manufacturers in the United States (U.S.).

  • How do I take gotu kola safely?

    In general, to take natural medications—like gotu kola—safely, inform your healthcare providers and pharmacists about any medication changes. This includes over-the-counter (OTC), herbal, natural medications, and supplements.

    They can help prevent possible interactions and side effects. They can also make sure that you’re giving gotu kola a good trial at appropriate doses.

Sources of Gotu Kola & What to Look For

There are several different sources of gotu kola.

Food Sources of Gotu Kola

Gotu kola is naturally available as a plant from the parsely family. Gotu kola juice can be added to milk. This plant can also be fried in clarified butter.

Gotu Kola Supplements

Gotu kola is available in a few different forms, including capsules and tablets. If you have difficulties swallowing pills, gotu kola might also be available in liquid and powder dosage forms. Gotu kola is also available in topical products, such as ointments. There are also vegetarian options.

The specific product you choose will depend on your preference and what you hope to get in terms of effects. Each product may work a bit differently depending on the form. So, it's important to follow your healthcare provider's recommendations or label directions.

Summary

Gotu kola is a plant from the parsley family. This plant may have some potential brain-related effects—like improving mood; but results are mixed when it comes gotu kola's effects on cognition (e.g., memory, etc). Gotu kola may also relieve swelling symptoms in people with chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). But this plant has mixed results in regard to the healing of ulcers or burns.

While side effects are rare with gotu kola, side effects are still possible—especially at high doses and with prolonged use. There are also several potential interactions to consider. More high-quality research with larger and well-designed clinical trials is still needed to study gotu kola's effectiveness and safety. Before taking gotu kola, reach out to your pharmacist or healthcare provider to help you safely achieve your health goals.

16 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.